Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
The Commission finds that using expedited procedures in this rulemaking will serve the public interest. Specifically, they support the Commission's goals of clarifying and updating existing regulations without undue expenditure of resources, while ensuring that the public has an opportunity to submit data, views, and arguments on whether the Commission should amend the Rule. Because written comments should adequately present the views of all interested parties, the Commission is not scheduling a public hearing or workshop. However, if any person would like to present views orally, he or she should follow the procedures set forth in the
The Rule makes it an unfair or deceptive act or practice for manufacturers and importers of textile wearing apparel and certain piece goods to sell these items without attaching labels stating the care needed for the ordinary use of the product.
The Commission promulgated the Rule in 1971 and has amended it three times since.
In 2000, the Commission rejected two proposed amendments. First, the Commission did not require labels with instructions for home washing on items that one can safely wash at home, because the evidence was not sufficiently compelling to justify this change and the benefits of the proposed change were highly uncertain.
As part of its ongoing regulatory review program, the Commission published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”) in July 2011 seeking comment on the economic impact of, and the continuing need for, the Rule; the benefits of the Rule to consumers; and the burdens the Rule places on businesses.
This NPRM summarizes the comments received by the Commission, explains the Commission's decision to retain the Rule, proposes several amendments to the Rule, and explains why the Commission has declined to propose certain amendments.
The Commission received 120 comments in response to the ANPR.
All but two of the numerous comments that addressed retention of the Rule favored it.
While the comments indicate widespread support for the Rule, most argued that the Commission should update or expand it in various ways. In particular, many comments urged the Commission to address professional wetcleaning by either requiring or allowing manufacturers to disclose a wetcleaning instruction. Still others urged the Commission to update the Rule's provisions allowing the use of care symbols by incorporating the latest ASTM or International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”) care symbol standards, allowing manufacturers to follow either standard, or adopting new symbols for professional cleaning. Several comments requested clarification of the Rule's reasonable basis provisions or imposition of testing requirements on manufacturers. Others advocated updating the definition of “dryclean” and the Appendix to reflect the development of new solvents and cleaning technologies and practices. Some comments urged the Commission to require manufacturers to disclose all appropriate methods of care on labels. Further, some comments urged the Commission to amend the Rule to require the disclosure of additional information such as fiber content or more detailed care instructions, to disallow certain instructions currently permitted by the Rule, or to impose additional obligations. Several comments addressed disclosures made in multiple languages.
Slightly more than half of the 120 comments received by the Commission stated or implied that the Commission should permit, or require, a professional wetcleaning instruction on garments that can be wetcleaned. Wetcleaning is an alternative to drycleaning and involves professionals cleaning products in water using special technology (cleaning, rinsing, and spinning), detergents, and additives to minimize adverse effects, followed by appropriate drying and restorative finishing procedures. Of the comments addressing this issue, only three expressed concerns.
First, they touted the economic, health, and environmental benefits of wetcleaning. For example, based on its analysis of scientific literature on the health and environmental impacts of drycleaning solvents, and its review of operational costs and compliance-related impacts, the San Francisco Department of the Environment determined that professional wetcleaning is the most environmentally-preferable professional cleaning option.
Second, several comments explained that the number of cleaners providing professional wetcleaning has increased and that consumers increasingly use or prefer it. Two trade associations reported that professional wetcleaning is now widespread in the industry.
Several comments provided data on the number of cleaners providing wetcleaning and the number of garments they clean. For example, one comment stated that over 200 perc drycleaners in California have switched to wetcleaning and successfully cleaned the full range of garments they previously drycleaned.
Other comments cited the experience of individual cleaners that increasingly replace drycleaning with wetcleaning. For example, one comment from a cleaning business stated that wetcleaning is becoming common, and that it wetcleans approximately 65%-80% of the clothes it washes.
Several comments noted the development of industry standard care
Finally, several comments argued that the Rule's failure to address wetcleaning places professional wetcleaners and equipment vendors at a competitive disadvantage and discourages greater use of wetcleaning.
The comments urging the Commission to amend the Rule to address wetcleaning differ on whether the Commission should require a wetcleaning instruction or merely permit one. Moreover, many urge the Commission to address wetcleaning without specifying exactly how. Of those comments taking a position, the vast majority favored amending the Rule to require a professional wetcleaning instruction if the garment can be wetcleaned.
In addition, several commenters that do not appear to manufacture or market apparel argued that the benefits of requiring a wetcleaning instruction would exceed the added labeling and testing costs to manufacturers. One comment explained that the vast majority of manufacturers use experience and expertise to determine the care label.
A smaller number of comments indicated that they favored amending the Rule to permit, but not require, a wetcleaning instruction. One comment argued that allowing the instruction on labeling will reconfirm to the public that this method is accepted and safe and encourage manufacturers to produce more garments that do not need to be cleaned in a solvent.
Many comments simply urged the Commission to address wetcleaning without specifying how.
With a few exceptions, the comments addressing the use of symbols to provide care instructions favored their continued use.
A number of comments expressed support for harmonizing the ASTM symbols allowed under the Rule with those used internationally.
Still others favored acceptance of ISO or internationally-accepted symbols without addressing the ASTM symbols.
GreenEarth Cleaning (“GreenEarth”) advocated a different approach to disclosing professional cleaning instructions. It argued that the ASTM and ISO professional cleaning symbols are inadequate because they are based on particular solvents rather than solvent characteristics.
In addition to proposing new symbols, GreenEarth advocated parallel changes to the “overarching nomenclature and the guiding principle” behind the Rule, to improve the reliability and understandability of care labels.
Two comments addressed the presentation of symbols. One argued that the current system works well, but that some uniformity regarding location, size, composition, and font size would greatly help the industry.
Four comments argued that the Commission should clarify or strengthen the Rule's provision requiring manufacturers to have a reasonable basis for care instructions. One urged the Commission to strengthen the reasonable basis requirements and hold manufacturers accountable to individual consumers for inappropriate care instructions.
Several comments urged the Commission to update the Rule's definition of “dryclean,” as well as the Appendix. One comment urged the Commission to adopt a broader definition of “dryclean.”
Four comments from cleaners similarly argued that the current definition of drycleaning is very limiting.
Two comments urged the Commission to revise Appendix A. One advised that Appendix A of the Rule diverges from ASTM D5489, although it did not identify how or explain why amendments are warranted.
Several comments from the cleaning industry urged the Commission to amend the Rule to require manufacturers to include instructions on all appropriate methods of care.
Some comments proposed amending the Rule to require additional disclosures, disallow certain care instructions currently allowed by the Rule, address the format or composition of labels, expand the scope of the Rule, or impose additional requirements. Additionally, several comments addressed the use of multiple languages on care labels.
Five comments urged the Commission to require disclosure of fiber, fabric, or component content.
Other comments urged the Commission to require more detailed care instructions or disclosure of additional information related to care.
One comment proposed that the Rule provide that the care instruction indicate the maximum treatment that can be applied to the item.
Moreover, one comment argued that care tags could be replaced or made much smaller and simpler with the use of a unique identifier for every garment, such as a barcode, QR code, or an RFID chip.
Another comment addressed disclosure of an item's point of origin. It urged the Commission to require disclosure of the state for items allowed a “made in the United States” label.
Other comments argued that the Commission should disallow certain care instructions that they view as providing little, if any, benefit to consumers, or to otherwise limit care instructions. One comment argued that all garments should be serviceable, and opposed “Do not wash. Do not dryclean” labels.
Two comments addressed the format or composition of the labels required by the Rule. One argued that labels should be a standard size, printed on white material only, using stable black ink, non-soluble in water and drycleaning solvents.
Two comments addressed the scope of the Rule. One argued that the Rule
Four comments favored imposing additional obligations under the Rule other than labeling. One urged the establishment of an electronic database for reporting insufficient or incorrect labeling so consumers can research problems.
Finally, several comments argued that the Rule should not require multiple language disclosures.
The record shows wide support for the Rule from all the major industries affected by its provisions as well as from consumers. Among other things, comments supporting the Rule explained that it benefits consumers, manufacturers, and businesses in general and provides valuable guidance on care to consumers and the fabricare industry.
Two comments opposing the Rule, one filed by GINETEX and the other by a retailer, failed to provide any tangible evidence to support their assertions.
In light of the many stakeholder comments expressing support for the Rule, the Commission concludes that a continuing need exists for the Rule and that the Rule imposes reasonable costs on the industry. The Commission therefore concludes that the weight of the record evidence clearly supports retention of the Rule.
Many of the comments supporting the Rule also advocated various amendments. Accordingly, based on the comments and the evidence discussed herein, the Commission proposes to amend the Rule in the following four ways.
As noted above, in 2000, the Commission declined to amend the Rule to permit a “Professionally Wetclean” instruction on labels. The Commission stated that it would consider permitting such an instruction if a more specific definition and/or test procedure were developed that provided manufacturers with a reasonable basis for a wetcleaning instruction.
The record now shows that these conditions have been met. ISO has developed ISO 3175-4:2003, “Textiles—Professional care, drycleaning and wetcleaning of fabrics and garments—Part 4: Procedure for testing performance when cleaning and finishing using simulated wetcleaning.” This standard includes a definition of wetcleaning and test procedures for determining whether apparel can be wetcleaned professionally. Several comments favoring a wetcleaning instruction cited this standard approvingly.
As described in Section II.A, the record shows widespread support for amending the Rule to include professional wetcleaning. Many comments explained the economic, environmental, and health benefits of wetcleaning. They also noted the increasing industry acceptance and use of wetcleaning, the inclusion of wetcleaning symbols in both the ASTM and ISO care symbol systems, and the risk that failing to allow an instruction could place wetcleaners at a disadvantage, thereby discouraging its use despite its advantages. The increasing industry acceptance and use of wetcleaning and the inclusion of wetcleaning symbols in both the ASTM and ISO systems establish the prevalence of wetcleaning. Only three comments expressed reservations, and none of them provided evidence that amending the Rule would harm consumers or that the cost of doing so would exceed the benefits.
While the record supports permitting a professional wetcleaning instruction, it does not warrant requiring such an instruction. None of the comments provided evidence that the absence of a wetcleaning instruction for products that can be wetcleaned would result in deception or unfairness under the FTC Act. Nor did they provide evidence that the benefits of requiring a wetcleaning instruction would exceed the costs such a requirement would impose on manufacturers and importers.